Laurence Gonzales on Homo Sapiens' Stupidity

Laurence Gonzales:

Well, we’re descended from a long, long line of hominids that you can trace back about 30 million years to a time when the Earth was encircled by a great rainforest and it was populated by all kinds of different apes of various kinds.  Somewhere along about 7 to 10 million years ago, our type of creatures split off from the creatures we know as chimpanzees and bonobos, some of the great apes.  And along the line in there, during that 7 to 10 million years, we had creatures like Australopithecus, we had creatures like Homo erectus, our recent ancestors, and the Neanderthals who we may or may not be related to depending on which scientist you talk to, but that lineage, that’s who we are.  And if you look at what happened on Wall Street in the last few months, you see human beings, modern human beings, behaving like apes.  So we’re fully capable of jumping back into this ancestral behavior at times and doing really stupid things even though we’re very smart creatures.  In addition to that, I go into, in the book, some discussions of brain systems that we’ve inherited from these creatures, such as the way we process information.  We don’t really see the world as it is most of the time.  We create simplified models for it that makes us more efficient.  So, for example, if you look at a dog, you don’t have to examine it to see what it is ‘cause you’ve already identified the dog and you’ve stored a simplified model in your head of what it is, so if you see a Great Dane or you see a Chihuahua, you’ll instantly know this is a dog and you could move on from that.  So the system codes everything for us so that we can be very efficient, and what it tells us is you already know what’s going on, you can proceed.  Which in the long haul of evolution was a good thing, but in the modern world, this sometimes a bad thing.  So I go through examples of how this can trip us up.

Author Laurence Gonzales charts recent human de-evolution.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less